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Olympic Committee President: Russia to set up protest zones in Sochi

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

LAUSANNE, Switzerland — IOC President Thomas Bach said Russia will set up public protest zones in Sochi during the Winter Olympics, a move unlikely to defuse criticism of the country’s human rights record and a recent law banning gay “propaganda.”

Christophe Bott, Keystone/APInternational Olympic Committee, IOC, President German Thomas Bach, attends the opening of the executive board's meeting, at the IOC headquarters, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013.

Christophe Bott, Keystone/AP
IOC President Thomas Bach attends the opening of the executive board’s meeting, at the IOC headquarters, in Lausanne, Switzerland, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013.

With the opening ceremony less than two months away, Bach said Sochi organizers notified him of the decision during their report to the International Olympic Committee executive board on Tuesday.

Bach, chairing his first board meeting since being elected president in September, said the Russians would establish specially designated zones for “people who want to express their opinion or want to demonstrate for or against something.”

Bach said he didn’t have any details on where the protest zones would be located or how they would be managed during the games, which run from Feb. 7-23.

“This is a measure we welcome, so that everybody can express his or her free opinion,” he said at a news c onference.

The decision to open protest zones comes amid continuing Western condemnation of President Vladimir Putin’s record on human rights and the law banning promotion of “nontraditional sexual relations” to minors.

In August, Putin signed a decree banning “gatherings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets” for 2 ½ months in Sochi around the Olympics and Paralympics. The ban is to take effect Jan. 7, a month before the start of the games and runs until March 21.

Putin’s decree appeared aimed at heading off demonstrations against the anti-gay law.

At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where China came under scrutiny for its human rights record and policy on Tibet, officially sanctioned protest zones were located miles from venues and were unused.

Beijing protesters had to apply for permission to hold demonstrations. Applications had to specify the protest subject and list those demonstrators involved. Chinese officials said almost 200 applicat ions were received but most were withdrawn or rejected.

Protests near Beijing venues were quickly quelled, and activists detained and deported.

On Tuesday, the IOC board also approved a letter that will be sent to athletes reminding them to refrain from any protests or political gestures during the Sochi Games. The Russian law has raised questions about what could happen to athletes who wear pins or badges or carry flags supporting gay rights.

The memo focuses on Rule 50 in the Olympic Charter, which states: “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

“We are going a step further to explain to the athletes why these rules are established and they are there to protect themselves,” Bach said.

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31 more reader comments:

  1. Because that will solve the problem. Not.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 7:54pm
  2. Great – show the homophobes EXACTLY where to go shopping.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 8:00pm
  3. Didn’t the Nazi’s set up Ghettos ……for a while?!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 8:00pm
  4. I’d be afraid they’d tear-gas people or worse!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 8:00pm
  5. IOC better get ready people will not let you take away their rights they will make a statement some way some how.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 8:01pm
  6. It’s only a BS move to placate the anger toward them.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 8:02pm
  7. Public protest zones? Yeah, that will work. We’ve seen how that totalitarian control over free speech works here already. We have all seen the fenced in areas offered to protesters at political conventions. Miles from no where. What is free speech if it isn’t heard?

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 8:03pm
  8. Hope it’s a rainbow rope..

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 8:12pm
  9. Given the track record of Putin and his henchmen…I am so sure I am NOT going to be coraled into a “protest zone” and be OK with all that….They will probably just open fire on the protesters as yet another expression of their hate…WE ARE NOT STUPID TOMAS BACH…TO HELL WITH YOU…THIS NOT A SOLUTION….BOYCOTT THE OLYMPICS AND ALL PRODUCTS FROM RUSSIA TILL THEY GIVE US THE ONLY SOLUTION…Rescind the laws of oppression and leave innocent people alone in Russia

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 8:13pm
  10. I wonder who are going to be the performers?

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 8:19pm
  11. Do you think that is going to Influence the russian govt??? Its like saying the UN is going in to disarm Russian troops!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 8:22pm
  12. Who wants to bet those “protest zones” will be located in Chernobyl?

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 8:28pm
  13. The zones will most likely be in Siberia. Seriously, you can bet they wont be anywhere near the venues.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 8:36pm
  14. It’s time for a unified world government to enforce human rights and other modern and common-sense laws across the globe. The current way of the world isn’t working for many people.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 8:43pm
  15. Good luck with that. We kniw Putin will jail & kill folx…

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 8:52pm
  16. Where Siberia?

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:30pm
  17. But isn’t Protesting it also Against the Law!!….:/

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:31pm
  18. BOYCOTT THE SOCHI OLYMPICS.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:32pm
  19. The IOC is a corrupt money grubbing hypocritical organization.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 10:07pm
  20. yeah they will do that but will do nowt about what people protest against, and it will be prime targets for people to attack them good idea putin -_-

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 11:51pm
  21. not good

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 12:28am
  22. Russian tyrants do react, but in a very, very wrong way.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 2:22am
  23. I have no respect for Thomas Bach.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 2:38am
  24. ya….for easier control!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 2:40am
  25. The freaking IOC is as ignorant as Putin and his thugs!
    Boycott

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 3:23am
  26. Aka arrest areas

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 3:44am
  27. i bet

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 4:24am
  28. Yeah, so they can arrest and photograph the protesters as the come and go..

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 4:27am
  29. hahahahahahahahaha

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 4:46am
  30. why are there zones? what are they afraid of?

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 5:30am
  31. IOC just shut it down and give it up this year. You gambled and lost. take a lost this year or prepare to suffer many years of continuing diminished returns.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 5:32am